In the state of Georgia alone, 1 in 100 children sustain incidents of child abuse every year.
The Children’s Advocacy Center, or CAC, is a site for children such as these. The CAC conducts forensic interviews for children who have made allegations of sexual or severe physical abuse, and it is one of the many programs Advocates for Children has under its umbrella of services. The reporting process implemented by the CAC is designed to be a single event overseen and followed up by a multidisciplinary team that includes trained forensic interviewers, law enforcement, medical personnel, and child protective services.
Forensic interviews conducted by the CAC are documented in such a way to reduce the need for a child who has witnessed or experienced traumatic events to tell his or her story repeatedly. However, the ultimate goal is to provide safety, comfort, and love to children and families who are in dangerous situations.
Sadly, many cases of child abuse go unreported. The truth of the situation is that children who experience abuse or neglect must be seen or heard by someone who can report their abuse in order to receive the help they desperately need.
Isolation is one of the key risk factors for abuse because it provides abusers more opportunities to abuse without being discovered. In September 2020, the CAC of Bartow County conducted 61 forensic interviews—double their average amount. Montana Wilson, trained forensic interviewer at the CAC, believes that the spike in cases is due to the return to school after the closure and self-isolation period caused by COVID-19.
Teachers are the number one reporters of child abuse, and Montana explained that “School is a safe place for many kids. There they are seen every day. For months they were not seen—they were not able to report things happening in their houses…child abuse never decreased, we simply didn’t know it was happening.”
The influx of new cases pouring into the CAC has definitely taken a toll on the staff. It is extremely difficult to bear witness to a child’s pain, but the dedicated interviewers at the CAC carry on regardless. Montana has worked at the CAC for 3 years and has conducted over 500 forensic interviews in her time there. In her experience, the number one thing that community members can do to support the center is to report suspected child abuse.
“Without a report or referral, there isn’t much we can do for a child or family. That’s why we need community members, coaches of sports teams, youth leaders, to be aware of the signs and to not be afraid to report.”
If you want to make your community safer, contact Amanda Tant at advochild.org about the Darkness to Light training workshop. Darkness to Light is a child abuse prevention training course where anyone can learn about the signs of child abuse. Learn more about reporting child abuse today and help a child in need.